Young NWSL groundbreaker Olivia Moultrie gets first shot at USWNT

Olivia Moultrie of Portland Thorns FC looks on
Olivia Moultrie of Portland Thorns FC looks on in the first half during the 2021 Women's International Champions Cup (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

When 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie and her family filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National Women’s Soccer League in 2021, the young pro paved the way for a generation of teenage talent in the United States’ top domestic league. 

Now, after over two years playing with the Portland Thorns, Moultrie is getting her turn on the international stage. 

On Wednesday, at age 18, Moultrie earned her first senior call-up to the US women’s national team. The midfielder joins 26 other players for a training camp leading up to the United States’ two home friendlies against Colombia in late October.

Moultrie is no stranger to wearing the US jersey at the youth level. In 2022, she started all three group games at the U20 World Cup. She’s also helped the US win CONCACAF titles at both the U20 and U15 levels.

Her crafty, well-timed assists could bring a creative, attacking flair to the US midfield.

An uncharted career path

While Moultrie may be called a teenage phenomenon, she made waves before she was even officially a ‘teen’.

At age 11, the 22-time NCAA women’s soccer champion University of North Carolina offered Moultrie a scholarship. Yet, she opted to go pro at 13, signing with Wasserman Media Group and inking a multiyear, six-figure endorsement deal with Nike, according to The New York Times.

Though she began training with the Thorns that same year and competed in non-official matches against pro teams, Moultrie could not play in official NWSL matches due to an age restriction on players under 18. She couldn’t sign overseas, based on FIFA rules.

Her lawsuit helped overturn the NWSL’s policy. U18 players can now compete but cannot be traded or waived without parental consent

Making an impact for the defending champs

Moultrie has become a key part of the Portland Thorns side that finished second in the regular season and will look to defend its 2022 in the upcoming playoffs.

In a team with the midfield firepower of Crystal Dunn, Rocky Rodriguez, Hina Sugita and Sam Coffey, Moultrie has played in 21 of the Thorns’ 22 games this season, starting 11. She’s scored five goals and recorded eight assists across her two-and-a-half seasons.

While Moultrie’s young talent is exceptional, she’s no longer the exception. Since 2021, a flurry of young talent has entered the league. In April, forward Melanie Barcenas of the San Diego Wave became the youngest-ever NWSL player. At 15 years and 181 days old, Barecenas broke Moultrie’s record by just 108 days. 

Moultrie and the United States will take on 2023 Women’s World Cup quarter-finalist Colombia on Thursday, October 26th, at 9pm EST in Utah. Then Sunday, October 29th, at 5:30pm EST in San Diego.

Players begin the push for a roster spot on next year’s Olympic team after the United States’ uncharacteristically early knockout round finish at the recent World Cup.

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